Rural/urban dwelling across the life-course and late-life cognitive ability in Mexico

Joseph L. Saenz, Brian Downer, Marc A. Garcia, Rebeca Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Urban advantages in older adults’ cognitive function have been observed. Less is known about early-life urban dwelling and late-life cognition. We evaluate how rural/urban dwelling throughout life and rural to urban shifts in life relate with cognition in Mexico, a country experiencing aging and urbanization. Methods: Data came from the 2003 and 2012 Mexican Health and Aging Study (n = 12,238 adults age 50+). Early-life urban dwelling was self-reported. Late-life urban dwelling was based on population size of respondents’ community of residence (community 2500+ people) at the time of survey. Cognitive function was measured across several cognitive tasks. We assess differences in baseline cognitive function and nine-year decline across groups using a latent change score model. Results: Cross-sectionally, compared to always rural dwellers, rural-urban transitions were associated with cognitive benefits, though individuals residing in urban areas continuously through life exhibited the highest levels of cognitive function (β = 0.89, 95% CI: 0.83, 0.96) even after adjusting for SES, health, and health behaviors (β = 0.28, 95% CI: 0.22, 0.35). Longitudinally, always urban dwellers exhibited slower decline than always rural dwellers when adjusting for baseline cognition (β = 0.11, 95% CI: 0.03, 0.18), though faster decline when baseline cognition was not adjusted (β = −0.11, 95% CI: -0.18, −0.04). No differences were observed for cognitive change across comparison groups after adjusting for potential mechanisms. Conclusions: Early- and late-life urban dwelling may result in cognitive advantages for older Mexican adults. Clinicians should consider where individuals resided throughout life to better understand a patient's likelihood of experiencing poor cognitive outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101031
JournalSSM - Population Health
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • Aging
  • Cognitive decline
  • Education
  • Latin America
  • MHAS
  • Mexico
  • Rural/urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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